What Do JFK Files Say? Trump Tweets That He'll Release Classified Information About John F. Kennedy
Another morning, another tweet to decipher from President Trump. On Saturday, Oct. 21, Trump tweeted that he would be releasing the JFK files, pending the receipt of further information. In order to understand what this means, you'll need to first figure out what the JFK files say.
According to CBS News, the JFK files are confidential documents containing information surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963. According to the National Archives website, Congress enacted the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act in 1992. The Act sought to collect all assassination-related records that were scattered throughout the Federal Government and transfer them to National Archives, where the JFK Assassination Records Collection was created. The Act was signed by President George H. W. Bush on Oct. 26, 1992.
There are around 5 million pages of records, and currently, 88 percent of the records are open to the public. Furthermore, 11 percent of the records are available for public viewing with sensitive information redacted, and approximately one percent of the documents that are fully confidential and unavailable to the public. When the Act was passed in 1992, Congress mandated that all records (including those that were previously withheld as confidential) should be made public by Oct. 26, 2017.
Seeing as it's Oct. 21, 2017, this is likely the part of the Act that Trump is referring to in his tweet.
What you already know about the assassination will likely remain unchanged if and when the confidential documents are released. According to CNN, Gerald Posner, the author of Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK, said that there is "no smoking gun in there." The day Kennedy was shot will still be Nov. 22, 1963. The place where Lee Harvey Oswald shot the president will still be Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Posner went on to further say that you're not going to read these documents and find out that "there were three or four shooters at Dealey Plaza."
That's not to say that there is no pertinent information to be gained from the documents. According to CBS News, JFK scholars believe that there could be valuable insight into the whereabouts of Lee Harvey Oswald in the weeks leading up to the assassination. President Lyndon B. Johnson's Warren Commission, which was established by LBJ to investigate the assassination, was responsible for discovering the information that is currently known about Oswald's Mexico City trip.
What scholars already know is that Oswald went to Mexico City weeks before the assassination, and in that time, he visited the Cuban and Soviet embassies there. Not much else is known about his time there except that he said he went to get visas that would grant him access to Cuba and the Soviet Union.
It has been speculated that some of the confidential information could involve U.S.-Mexico relations at that time that allowed the U.S. to have surveillance of the Cuban and Soviet embassies in Mexico, according to CBS News. Seeing as though these countries were completely Communist in 1963, it makes sense that something like this may have occurred, but it's all speculation until the confidential information is released.
CNN went on to further report that some believe there could be information — possibly similar to the previous speculation — that would be embarrassing to Mexico and possibly harm the U.S.'s current relationship with the country.
The 1992 Act does state that a president can withhold information from the public release if he believes that its release could be damaging to the U.S. According to the National Archives website, a team of archivists and technicians began the process of preparing all the records for public release in October of 2014, and they are set to be released unless there is a successful presidential appeal to keep them confidential.
From the content of Trump's tweet (because that's apparently how the president announces official business now), it looks like the files will be released unless there is new information that suggests otherwise. You might think that the president would wait until he received the "further information" to announce the release of the JFK documents, but hey, those 140 characters aren't going to write themselves.